Safety with modernisation is Trivedi’s mantra for railways (Second Lead)

March 14th, 2012 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) With a spate of fatal accidents in the past few years, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi Wednesday said safety would be the prime focus of his ministry during the 12th Five Year Plan, along with network expansion and modernisation.

“My focus will be safe safety, safety, safety,” Trivedi told the Lok Sabha, presenting the rail budget for 2012-13. This was the decision he took as soon as he assumed charge of his ministry last year against the backdrop of an accident in Uttar Pradesh, the minister said.

“I vow to target zero deaths,” he said in his maiden rail budget speech. “I also propose to set up an independent railway safety authority, as recommended by an expert group headed by the former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar.”

The other four focus areas along with safety listed by the minister were consolidation, de-congestion and capacity augmentation of the network, modernisation and bringing down the operating ratio. He also stressed on better hygiene and higher speed of trains.

Trivedi, a member of the Trinamool Congress, said the operating ratio of the railways — amount spent on running the network against revenues — will be lowered to 84.5 percent from the current 95 percent, and to 74 percent by the terminal year of the 12th plan.

This is key to the network being able to garner money for expansion and modernisation.

The minister said he was looking at the current budget not as an exercise for the next fiscal alone, but also for the entire five year plan, drawing from the Vision 2020 document of his predecessor and current West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The Indian Railways run the third largest railroad network in the world spread over some 64,000 km, with 12,000 passenger and 7,000 freight trains each day from as many as 7,083 stations to ferry 23 million travellers and 2.65 million tonnes of goods daily.

Given the socio-economic role played by the railways in India’s transformation, Trivedi also said time had come for formulating national policy for the network on the lines of those for defence and external affairs.

According to the minister, Indian Railways will invest Rs.7.35 lakh crore during the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-17), against Rs.1.92 lakh crore in the current one. By then, it will double its contribution to India’s gross domestic product to 2 percent.

Trivedi said the outlay of Rs.60,100 crore proposed for 2012-13 will be the highest ever and added that the network will require Rs.14 lakh crore over the next 10 years for modernisation.

Coming to specific proposals, Trivedi said 85 new line projects would be be taken up during the next fiscal year at a cost of Rs.6,870 crore, even as feasibility surveys would be conducted for another 114 lines.

He said an attempt will also be made to increase train speeds to 160 km per hour from around 90-100 km per hour. With that, he said, a journey from New Delhi to Kolkata will be brought down to 14 hours from 17 hours.

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